After a major downpour, like the one we had the other day, a mother watched her two little boys playing in a puddle hole through her kitchen window. The older of the two, a five-year old, took his younger brother by the back of his head and shoved his face into the puddle. As the boy recovered, shook his head, laughing and dripping, the mother runs to the yard in a panic.
‘Why did you do that to your little brother?!’ she asks as she shook the older boy in anger.
‘We were just playing ‘church’ mommy,’ said the little boy.
‘And I’ he said proudly ‘was baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and in the hole he goes.’
Our children share what they have learned! Teachers have been telling us that for years. Parents have shared with both delight and an occasional cringeworthy moment that our children share what they learn. This births wonderful pride when our children mirror us at our best and can cause wincing when our foibles are on display before in pintsize.
When we think about sharing our faith, often we have in mind one image: knocking on the door of someone we have never met and reciting laws and figures. On this day that celebrates relationships – both with through the commemoration of Trinity Sunday (Trinity within God) and Father’s Day (with those who father), let’s broaden that image.
There is an apocryphal story told about the 5th century bishop Augustine pondering the mystery of trinity as he came across a child at the beach digging a hole in the sand. The child, like many since, was filling up the hole with water from the ocean. Running back and forth to get water from the sea to fill the hole, Augustine was said to have watched the flurry of activity. With curiosity, he asked the child, “What are you doing?” The child replied, “I am going to pour the entire ocean into the hole I dug.” Augustine was quick to correct, “That is impossible; the whole ocean will not fit into your hole.” The child replied, “Neither can infinite God fit the Holy Trinity into your finite mind.”
When we discuss the Trinity, we have often spoken in theological terms with an emphasis on mystery. We would share the limits of our knowledge and then declare that God is mystery. As a result, we will simply not be able to understand or explain anything beyond that. While there is much about God that may not be fully known to use, much is searchable and known in the relationship with God and God’s self. Friends, we don’t have to imagine that; it is our reality. In the Trinity, we see a God who is with us always, who shows us perfect love, and who never abandons us. God, in perfect relationship with God’s very self – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. We are called to live out that love in relationship with another and to share that hope.
This week at Annual Conference, West Grove was well represented by two clergy delegates, Pastor Jim and Pastor Monica, and two lay delegates, Susan Paisley and Janice Bowers. We were blessed by a visit from one of longtime United Methodist missionaries to Nepal. He shared a story of hope and the long-term relational work that we are called to do. Dr. Mark Zimmerman, a missionary and doctor in Nepal tells the story of man who came to him with an infection in his leg. With fear in their eyes, the family held incredible anxiety about the life and death status of their father and even leaving him in the care of the doctor and medical facility. His leg had progressed so far that infection was visible causing pain to the whole body. Without immediate medical intervention, the whole family was at risk. Not only the spread of infection, but the time for care had taken them away from work and livelihood and had an economic impact as well. However, this area and this family was not used to leaving their loved ones in the care of hospital. The family asked Dr. Zimmerman if coming to the hospital could assure their father’s full health. While he could not promise that, he assured them there was more hope with resources at the hospital than at home. It was in hope they trusted their father 6 weeks ago into the hands of the doctors. His progress has begun towards health and healing, restoration and hope. Dr. Zimmerman shared with us one of many stories of hope!
Jesus and the disciples are gathered around the table for Passover, their last supper together. The mood is reflective. Jesus teaches and imparts wisdom, in the way you do as you are dropping off your son or daughter for college or summer camp. Don’t forget everything I have taught you! Make us proud of you! We often hear ourselves say. And Jesus said, “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.” (John 14: 12-15)
Jesus encourages the disciples in this way. Whatever you request, I’ll do it in the name of the one who sent me! I was struck this week, by how often people ask, “how are you?”, “Did you do anything exciting?”, “So, what’s going on?” “what’s happening?” “what are you up?” All of these are questions of relationship. Opportunities for being in deeper relationship and connection to share. As the hairdresser or barber begins to wash or cut your hair, they ask. As you pay for your grocery, you are asked. As you buy stamps, you are asked. As you take your car in for service, you are asked.
What have you prepared to share as your story of hope? What story of hope do you want to share to celebrate what God has done in your life? Between the water and the shampoo, the woman washing my hair asked me, was there anything exciting in my week? As I bragged on our confirmands, a little bit of water went in my ears as she was clearly thinking about seven young people who set aside a full year to learn about Jesus and then, claim and follow him for a lifetime of discipleship.
What does it look like for you to share a story of hope? I know some of you will tell me that ‘how are you’ is a passing greeting, and you are not sure if people really want to hear when they ask. Let me challenge you today to step outside what is comfortable and share your story of hope with someone else. These questions are at their heart questions of relationship and an invitation to be in relationship. Our God, who lives in relationship in the Trinity, created us to be in relationship with one another.
Sometimes the beginning of a relationship can be the most challenging place. Many of us are nervous to take the first step boldly to build connection, but when we do, we are rewarded. What are you up to? I am excited about the movement of God through nine new members and their families this morning. Many of whom are already connected to our congregation, serving in the life of the church and community. Linger after worship to get a chance to talk today or reach out during the week to connect with this class. God is alive and moving, here at West Grove!
So, what’s going on? I continue to hear stories from you of how you have waited on God when all was not as you hoped. When you knew sufferings, when you knew pain. Where you are telling those stories and giving those reports of praise?
Consider this an invitation to share a story of hope. Consider this an opportunity to be in relationship with one you have not met. God, the God of relationships, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, calls us to do the same. So, take the challenge this week: When someone asks you, how are you? How’s it going? What are you excited about? What’s going on? Share with them – where God has been moving in your life and in the life of your church family! Share a story, a testimony of hope!
This is the gospel, the good news of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.
New Testament Lesson: Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
- Gospel Lesson: John 16:12-15
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, June 16 ~ Saturday, June 22
Sunday: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Romans 5: 1-2. Our hope comes from God. On this day of giving thanks for fathers, give thanks for all the men in your life who have provided fathering influences.
Monday: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance” Romans 5:3. Who do you know that is walking a road paved with sufferings today? How are walking with them?
Tuesday: “and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” Romans 5:4. Pray for those in our church and community who battle addiction. May they find freedom, support, and hope. Pray also for their families and friends.
Wednesday: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:5. When we share a story of where God has been in our lives, it is the most powerful witness of the gospel. Today, consider sharing a story of where God has given you hope in your life with someone who needs to hear hope.
Thursday: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16: 13. Pray today for an opportunity to share a story of hope.
Friday: “He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16: 14. Where is God calling you to offer your stories of hope in a new way or with someone else for this season?
Saturday: “All that the Father has is mine. For this reason, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16: 15. The hope you have was given to share! May stories of hope be seeds of hope for others.